Justin Gaethje isn’t looking past his fight against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone this weekend but it’s also impossible to ignore the landscape of the UFC lightweight division after what unfolded this past Saturday night.
Khabib Nurmagomedov finished interim champion Dustin Poirier in the third round, which should set up an inevitable showdown with Tony Ferguson later this year or in early 2020.
Meanwhile, Gaethje takes on Cerrone in the main event from UFC Fight Night in Vancouver and the former World Series of Fighting champion believes a win will leave him with only two options about what comes next.
“I think there’s two options for me — whoever wins [Khabib Nurmagomedov] against Tony or I fight Conor [McGregor],” Gaethje said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “Those are the two options I’ll be looking at when I’m done.”
A few weeks back, McGregor mentioned Gaethje’s name as a potential opponent that had been floated to him when he was contemplating a return to action in July.
Unfortunately, McGregor ended up suffering a broken hand in training, which prevented him from fighting anybody until later this year at the earliest.
According to Gaethje, he was never offered a fight against McGregor so he can’t say for certain if there was ever any reality surrounding that potential matchup.
“I have no idea how close it was,” Gaethje said. “I’m sure the UFC was really hounding him to fight. He probably said he was going to fight. He probably said he would fight me and then he probably broke his hand before I found out is what I’m guessing or it’s just not true.”
Gaethje has talked about facing McGregor in the past and if he’s offered the chance to meet him after the fight with Cerrone, he would undoubtedly take it.
“I’m trying to be the best in the world. He’s in the way,” Gaethje said about McGregor.
This past weekend following Nurmagomedov’s win over Poirier at UFC 242, McGregor chimed in by asking for a rematch against the reigning lightweight champion in his native Russia. Gaethje took the opportunity to respond while blasting McGregor for his behavior outside the cage.
you’re a tool. You have lost everything already. You are a shit human, father, and husband. Fuck you.— Justin Gaethje (@Justin_Gaethje) September 8, 2019
Whether he gets the fight or not remains to be seen but Gaethje says McGregor is going to have a tough time against any of the elite athletes at the top of the lightweight division no matter the name on the other side of the contract.
“We’re the best in the world right now,” Gaethje said. “Nobody is getting out of there easy in the top five or top 10 unless you’re fighting Al [Iaquinta] or f—king [Paul] Felder. That’s your only way out.”
Gaethje obviously puts himself in that list of dangerous opponents for McGregor and he’s looking forward to the chance to prove it if all goes well this weekend against Cerrone.
“You have to be a fool to say I’m not one of the best in the world,” Gaethje said. “I fought Dustin Poirier, he was fighting for the world title. Eddie Alvarez is world class and I fought stupid fights against them. I didn’t fight my best fight. I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere for a couple of years.”